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food robotics

Motivo Engineering Acquires Food Robotics Startup Robodondo

June 7, 2017

A Californian product design and engineering group called Motivo Engineering has acquired Robodondo, a robotics startup focused on the food industry.

Motivo already has a footprint in the agriculture sector, after designing the HARVEST smart electric tractor to deliver energy mobility to smallholder farmers in a project funded by USAID.

The acquisition of Robodondo will increase Motivo’s exposure to the food processing industry, where Robodondo has focused on producing automation systems for the last three years.

Robodondo has developed a range of tools for food processing including a sushi preparation machine, a meatball processor, and a 3D scanner and sort inspection device, according to its website.

“We acquiring a combination of Robodondo’s internal IP, market expertise and contacts,” said Praveen Penmetsa, CEO of Motivo. “Chris Laudando, the founder, has a fantastic vision of how automation and mechanization can solve food processing issues; he really understands the challenges the industry faces and has had some fantastic traction.”

Motivo works with large corporates as well as startups in varying capacities from a consultant to a technology development partner building prototypes. The company focuses on accelerating technologies and promises to bring robotics development timelines down three to five times. This is particularly important in the development of robotics, which can take years and a lot of capital to get to market.

Motivo will now leverage Robodondo’s expertise combined with its own experience in autonomy, sensors, data analytics, and energy to scale engineering projects and services for the food industry, which Penmetsa believes is a particularly interesting industry in need of innovation. Laudando will join Motivo as head of strategic partnerships.

“Every industry needs some external influence to help change its perspective and food processing is no different, but it’s also being hit with a lot of change including changing consumer demands and labor shortages,” said Penmetsa. “This puts the industry in a huge crunch and can create pressures that might lead to inaccuracies; food processing is not an industry where you want to take chances as the downsides are huge, safety, reputation, and food security-wise.”

“Technology has a role to play here, and we can apply the same processes and innovation expertise that we have for other clients in the automotive and energy industries to gain a huge impact.”

Motivo, therefore, wants to create robotic products that will bookend the whole industry, from farm to fork.

Penmetsa referenced a recent meeting with a robotics partner in California where they showed him a robotic arm working in the production of chocolate and imagined how that technology might be leveraged across the food supply chain for other food products.

Not only does Penmetsa has experience building solutions for the ag industry, but he is a third generation Indian rice farmer.

“Agriculture is a challenging space, especially for smaller farmers, and it’s a global problem, not location-specific; farmers all over the world have big challenges in this shifting landscape of food production demand and huge scrutiny in the supply chain,” he said.

Motivo’s HARVEST tractor is a fully electric machine that offers farmers a range of different agricultural tools. Farmers can rent the machine through text message and are charged based on the distance traveled, the time taken the and amount of energy used. If they recharge the tractor, they get credits back. It also has solar panels, and electric sockets so that farmers can use it to power their TVs, lights and other appliances at home.

The development of HARVEST was funded by the Powering Ag Energy Grand Challenge for Development from the USAID and other supranational organizations. (Find out more here.)

Motivo’s clients in other industries include Panasonic, BMW, and Nissan.

Image: Robodondo’s Sushibot

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